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Participating in His Estate Gift

Augsburg students in Vanuatu, including Mark Johnson ’75 and Professor Tim Pippert

A few years ago, Mark Johnson ’75 updated his estate plans to include Augsburg. He wanted his estate gift to honor Professor Joel Torstenson, the “father” of Sociology at Augsburg who started the Metro-Urban Studies program at Augsburg in 1971. Mark was one of the first students to graduate from Augsburg’s Metro-Urban Studies program, now called Urban Studies. He also went on Augsburg’s first Scandinavian Urban Studies Semester trip to Oslo, Norway. Mark’s gift will fund a professorship for faculty in the Urban Studies or Sociology departments.

Mark has been very involved at Augsburg since graduating in 1975. Along with joining the Board of Regents, Mark has been in constant contact with the Urban Studies and Sociology departments. And his connection has gone above and beyond monetary gifts.

“Community involvement is important,” Mark said. “My job was a chance to encourage people to reach out beyond themselves and to seek ways to be a bridge builder of relationships.”

As Mark witnessed the impact of quality faculty in today’s educational environment, he wanted to support the transformational effect of an education rich in experiences. This is why he started the Torstenson Scholars in 2015.

Professor Joel Torstenson

Joel Torstenson came to Augsburg as a history major from rural West Central Minnesota. After graduating in 1938, he worked in education for farmer’s co-ops. He began teaching part-time at Augsburg upon earning a master’s degree in history and sociology. During the war years, he became involved in the peace movement and participated in establishing a cooperative farm community, which led to employment with Midland Cooperatives as an educational director and community organizer. In the fall of 1947, President Christensen invited him back to Augsburg to develop its programs in social work and sociology while completing his doctorate in sociology at the University of Minnesota.

Today, the legacy of Joel Torstenson lives on through the Torstenson Scholars program, sociology and metro-urban studies majors, the Strommen Center for Meaningful Work, HECUA, and the college-wide “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement. Torstenson’s work also gave birth to the college-wide requirement that started as the “Urban Concern,” which was succeeded by the “City Perspective,” and is now known as the “Engaging Minneapolis” requirement.

Students in the Torstenson Scholars program are financially supported for one academic year, which includes a research trip with the Sociology or Urban Studies department. Mark’s funding has been used in four significant trips: a research trip to Vanuatu in September of 2018; two research trips to Williston, North Dakota, in 2017 and 2019 to study the effects of the oil boom on a small town; and a community research project in Two Harbors, Minnesota, Mark’s hometown.

As a Regent, Mark came to understand the significant positive impact of philanthropy at Augsburg.

“The question always has been: How can we manage change for the good of all?” says Mark.

He didn’t want to wait for the day when the estate gift would arrive at Augsburg’s door. Instead, he decided to launch the Torstenson Professorship now so he can actively participate in the things that will be supported by gifts in his estate plan. Mark also wants to encourage his fellow Auggies to join him in honoring Professor Torstenson.

Mark has seeded the endowed professorship fund with a gift of $50,000 and an available match of another $100,000. He hopes others will join him by giving to the fund to remember Joel’s legacy.

“Joel touched many lives and I think a contribution to the professorship is a great way to commemorate that. All contributors to this fund – a small gift or large gift – will be acknowledged equally,” says Mark.

Until the endowed fund reaches $250,000, Mark is funding the professorship annually.

Briana Mitchell ‘19, Britta Andress ‘19, and Sociology Professor Tim Pippert in Vanuatu
Briana Mitchell ‘19, Britta Andress ‘19, and Professor Tim Pippert in Vanuatu

“We are so grateful to Mark Johnson for his generosity and vision in honoring the Torstenson legacy at Augsburg with this professorship,” says President Paul Pribbenow. “It is particularly meaningful to me that Professor Tim Pippert will be the first incumbent of the Torstenson Endowed Professor. I have had the privilege to teach with Tim and to witness his commitment to our students.”

Professor Timothy Pippert joined the Augsburg faculty in 1999.  He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His teaching interests center on family systems, juvenile delinquency, homelessness and affluence, statistics, research methods, and race, class, and gender. In 2011, he received the Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Excellence in Teaching Award.

If you would like to donate to the Torstenson Professorship, or are interested in funding a new professorship, please contact Amy Alkire at alkirea@augsburg.edu or 651-323-4844.

Success Leads to Success: Announcing the Sundquist Endowed Professorship in Business Administration for Augsburg University

Dean Sundquist with Greta McClain
Dean Sundquist with Hagfors Center artist Greta McClain in January 2018.

“It takes a long time to create success and business is no exception,” says Dean Sundquist ’81, an Augsburg Regent and chairman and CEO of Mate Precision Tooling. “I’m investing in the long view and success of Augsburg.”

As a businessman and entrepreneur, Dean Sundquist ’81 and his wife Amy have made several major investments in Augsburg. Their most recent commitment will add to the Augsburg endowment as a leadership gift to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Great Returns will support Augsburg’s mission by securing gifts to strategic priorities including endowments, distinctive faculty, and key programs. The Sundquists’ gift will endow the third professorship for Augsburg in the largest department at the University.

“The things I was looking for when I went to college are still relevant to the reasons I invest in Augsburg. I wanted a smaller school in the city. Minneapolis is a good city for business. Being so close to downtown offered me access along with a close community feeling on campus. That continues to be a competitive edge for Augsburg.”

In addition, Dean appreciates the importance of great teaching and faculty.

“As a student I majored in and loved business. Yet the most influential professor for me was a political scientist, Myles Stenshoel. He taught constitutional law which drew me in. He taught me how to write, to love history, and to understand and embrace freedom. Those lessons stayed with me through graduate school and in my life as a businessman.”

Investing in Business

While working at Mate Precision Tooling in the time between Augsburg and the University of Minnesota, Dean was asked to research a product that Mate found hard to get. “Then we realized we could make it ourselves just as well. So we started Command Tooling Systems to do that. I sold that company in 1997.”

“At first the business was just me, and then it grew. We kept our focus on a customer and market orientation. We’ve been able to maintain stable growth and that keeps me interested. I love the whole discipline of business.”

Investing in the department of Business Administration is a dream of Dean’s.

“Business Administration is the largest department with the most majors on campus. Business is a positive and good for society. I’m investing in promoting the power of capitalism. I want the faculty who hold this position to be pro-capitalism, pro-business, and pro-freedom.”

According to Monica Devers, Dean of Professional Studies, “An Augsburg education is based on excellence in the liberal arts and professional studies. This generous gift from Dean Sundquist to create an endowed professorship will play a significant role in recruiting and retaining the very best faculty to our Business Administration department at Augsburg.”

“Augsburg University has a long tradition of highly engaged teachers and scholars. Recruitment of the best faculty supports and enhances our academic excellence and that, in turn, attracts students to our institution. This endowed professorship will elevate the visibility of the faculty and the unique aspects of our undergraduate and graduate business programs.”

As a Regent Dean keeps his attention on building a great future for Augsburg.

“I see the Augsburg leadership team rising to the challenges of higher education. President Paul Pribbenow keeps learning new ways to work. He has done really well to stay aggressive and to invest in going to the next step. The fundamentals are in place. I have a lot of faith in the way Augsburg is moving forward. They do a lot with the resources they have. I say to others, Take Note! Augsburg has worked hard to position itself. They are on the edge in a good way. There’s no coasting at Augsburg and I like that. I say, let’s keep the momentum going and keep our foot on the gas!”

One of Dean’s hopes in making this major gift to Augsburg is that it will encourage others to make similar and even more significant gifts.

“Other places have gotten really big gifts to their endowments—gifts of $25 million or more. I want Augsburg to receive more transformative gifts because an Augsburg education is a transformative one.”

Department chair Dr. Jeanne Boeh declared, “Dean is a superior role model for our students as they begin their vocations with a career in business. We thank him for the hard work and vision which has enabled this very much appreciated gift.”

Regent Karen Durant ’81 Invests in the Power of Unrestricted Giving

Karen Durant at the Hagfors groundbreaking ceremony.
Karen Durant at the Hagfors Center groundbreaking ceremony.

Karen (Miller) Durant ’81 grew up just 4 miles from Augsburg.

“My parents met at a Swedish Lutheran Church that I then attended with my entire extended family. I was four when I started playing the piano and then became a church organist at the age of 12. My parents did not attend college. That makes me a first generation college graduate. I paid my own way through school with the money I made as an organist and from working two additional part-time jobs.”

The discipline and work ethic that allowed her to pay her way through to an Augsburg degree informs every aspect of Karen’s life. She recently retired from a distinguished career in business, most recently as Vice President and Controller of Tennant Company.

”Given the way I got to Augsburg, you may have assumed I majored in Music, but I majored in Accounting with a minor in Economics. There are more similarities between music and accounting than you may think. There is a lot of counting involved in both, but less obvious is the balance one must find between creative expression and rules. Great musical masterpieces are written in a certain key and have a certain time signature. In my career as a financial executive I became known for my creativity and technical knowledge.”

Karen brings this distinctive expertise to her work as chair of the Audit Committee and vice chair of the Finance Committee of the Board of Regents. It’s in these roles that she’s come to understand the intricacies of finance within higher education.

“When I joined the Board of Regents in the fall of 2011 I got to see what happens behind the scenes. I worked on the audit and finance committees and went through the financials in great detail. It’s really a bird’s eye view. Sometimes we have to make tough choices. Getting the CSBR campaign completed has done so much for our momentum.”

“I want to see that momentum continue to grow.”

Karen DurantThat’s one reason she decided to participate in building the endowment of Augsburg by making an unrestricted cash leadership gift to Great Returns: Augsburg’s Sesquicentennial Campaign. Great Returns will support Augsburg’s mission by securing gifts to strategic priorities including endowments, distinctive faculty, and key programs.

“My career in finance coupled with my deep knowledge of the university is how I came to learn the importance of unrestricted cash giving. This type of gift provides the highest level of financial flexibility because it not only grows the endowment, it also benefits Augsburg’s overall financial position. I’m completely comfortable and confident that the University will use the money in the most effective way for years to come.”

One reason Karen is so enthused about the future of the University is because of the core values that brought her to Augsburg in the first place.

“When I first arrived on campus, I came knowing through my Lutheran faith that all are welcome. The whole campus has always expressed our Lutheran identity and that all are welcome. Augsburg has evolved and changed to meet the needs of diverse populations. By successfully finding that balance of individual identity and all are welcome, Augsburg continues to be a healthy and relevant institution. It’s something very special.”

In making this gift to Great Returns, Karen is matching the level of commitment she made to the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion campaign.

“I have the utmost faith and confidence in Augsburg University and I trust they will manage all unrestricted endowments in the most effective way for all the years to come. Augsburg is one of the best investments in higher education today. It is a great investment in the future.”

Karen Durant is a financial executive and has been an Augsburg Regent since 2011.

Distinctive Sculpture Articulates Augsburg Identity

Sponsored by Jeff Nodland ’77 and Becky Bjella Nodland ’79Trans:Perspective: Bebe KeithChapel glass sculpture sponsorship.Sponsorship Level: $150,000
Trans:Perspective: Bebe Keith

“From the moment I heard that a chapel would be included in the Hagfors Center for Science, Business, and Religion, I wanted to design a piece of art for it,” said artist Bebe Keith. Her large 3-D glass sculpture will become a featured element of the building’s roof top chapel thanks to the sponsorship investment by Jeff Nodland ’77 and Becky Bjella Nodland ’79.

“One of the things that drew my attention to this opportunity is that Augsburg is recognized as the fourth most diverse and inclusive campus in the United States. The idea that people of all faiths and backgrounds will use the chapel space interested me while also presenting a challenge to me as an artist.”

Bebe Keith has been creating art professionally for about 12 years, mostly in the public art realm. “I usually create stained glass mosaics by hand for public spaces, primarily in health care. “When I got the Art and Identity committee’s call for artists I wanted to do something distinctive.”

Drawing on inspiration from scripture, her original design was all about diversity, connections and networks between people.

“When I presented my first 2-D design to the Art and Identity Committee, they really latched on to the idea but wondered if it could actually be produced in three dimensions, so I figured out a way to make that happen.”

She found a computer program that helped her illuminate what was in her mind’s eye. It worked. The design addresses the networking of the three disciplines of science, business, and religion was at the origin of her idea.

“I started with the idea of networks—dots with lines connecting with other dots with lines which connect to others and so on. The negative space is all triangles. So the idea of people as networks becomes forms.”

As Keith puts it, “Acceptance is the most important value to me. I love to imagine people coming together in harmony and peace. Acceptance is the ideal. I want to promote places and spaces where people come together and listen to one another. This chapel is a place for sharing ideas and taking them along with them into the world. It will be a quiet place and those ideas are all there for the visitor.” Continue reading “Distinctive Sculpture Articulates Augsburg Identity”

Endowed Scholarship Celebrates the Ecumenical

Paul and Diane Jacobson at Redeemer Lutheran.
Paul and Diane Jacobson at Redeemer Lutheran.

As a young girl raised Jewish in St. Louis, Missouri, Diane Levy Jacobson never imagined that she and her husband, Paul, might one day endow a scholarship for a Muslim student at Augsburg. But then she never imagined that she would teach Scripture, either. Or become a Christian, for that matter.

“Becoming a Lutheran biblical professor was certainly not in my life plan while I was growing up, and I’m sure I had no idea what a seminary was. God has a great sense of humor,” says Diane, professor emeritus at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, where she taught from 1982 to 2010.

By the time she got to Connecticut College, in New London, Connecticut, she decided to major in religion. Times were turbulent, and what was then a liberal protestant church championed civil rights and antiwar causes.

“It’s interesting right now with all the politics swirling, and it wasn’t all that different in the ‘60s. I got involved in the campus ministry, which was a large part of the political movement,” says Diane, a self-described searcher. “I felt very alive and in the middle of things. God works in mysterious ways!”

Diane earned a master’s degree in religion from Columbia University and a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary, where she met and married Paul Jacobson, a St. Olaf graduate and son of a Lutheran pastor. They attended a Lutheran church, where she taught Sunday school, yet she remained Jewish “because it seemed wrong not to.” A change of heart had occurred by the time her second son was born; she and her sons were baptized together.

“Then I became a super Lutheran,” she says with a chuckle. Diane was called to teach at Luther, so the family moved to Minnesota in 1982, where Paul pursued his music career as composer, flutist, and co-founder of the Lyra Baroque Orchestra. At Luther, Diane became the first woman to teach Bible at any Lutheran seminary in the country. A well-respected leader, frequent speaker, and author of numerous publications, she retired in February as director of the Book of Faith Initiative for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“I can’t imagine anything that would be more rewarding to do,” she says of her career. “It is quite a privilege to be a teacher of any sort, and it has been exciting to be part of the ELCA, the church, and education.” Continue reading “Endowed Scholarship Celebrates the Ecumenical”